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By Zoe Howard On 14 Aug, 2017 At 05:05 PM | Categorized As Featured, PC Games, Uncategorized | With 0 Comments

No Gravatar*Review code for the review was provided by the publisher.*

The great thing about JRPG’s is that they vary in both story and style. Sure there are some series that are almost cut and paste to the point you can’t tell which is which but they are in the minority. While The Legend of Heroes series is one I am not familiar with, it is one I gladly went into with Trials of Cold Steel, a game that felt almost as much of an anime as it did an RPG.

While the game really follows an ensemble cast, the main story centers around Rean, a first-year student at Thor’s Military Academy. Rean and eight other first years arrive at the school and discover that they are part of a special group called Class VII. Unlike the regular classes, Class VII brings together both nobles and commoners. The group must discover what the class has in store for them as well as learn to get along. The classism angle alone to the story makes for some interesting character dynamics.

The game gives you plenty of interaction with the rest of your class. As it progresses you are given tokens that you use in order to initiate events with your classmates that strengthen the bond between them. This means you will have to choose which classmates you decide to build relationships with. Unlike the Mass Effect series, Trails of Cold Steel gives you limited chances to do this so you won’t be building full relationships with everyone. It also adds a little to the replay ability factor. You can focus on a few one run and others the next run. Sure, it doesn’t change that much but it does add some intrigue.

The core mechanics in this game are quite simple. This is to be expected from an old school turn based RPG. The core mechanics should be simple so it can open up the strategy it offers with magic and the art skills. Trials of Cold Steel not only has an excellent interface but easy to understand upgrades and strategies. It didn’t take long before I learned how to use the link mechanic. This mechanic allows another member of your team to attack immediately after you attack.

There is one small issue with the controls and that is the ability to turn the character. The game seems to only utilize four directional button mapping rather than the standard 8 directions. It is far easier to turn your character with the right camera stick than it actually is with the left character control stick. This really exacerbates things when you are trying to maneuver around an enemy to get the upper hand before combat. Your best option is usually to wait for them to turn around then attack.

This is one of those games where you will actually get a use of being creative with the magic and art systems. Both systems use their own meters and allow for a great combination of moves. You will need to learn them quickly as you begin the game. You level up as per usual in an RPG. This game, however, uses a power up system to gain most of your special moves. Final Fantasy 7 and its materia system comes to mind when looking at how it works.

The graphics are really good considering they are basically upgrades of the PSVita and PlayStation 3. I wouldn’t go into this one expecting a next gen look, but I can say that it is some really great graphics for the era it was released. The game really utilizes the PC hardware, giving it a more polished look than some of its counterparts were not able to achieve. There is screen tearing that happens in some of the larger areas but beyond that, I never saw any real issues.

The music is a delightful treat that often reminded me of the PlayStation 1 era. It’s that kind of music that makes you feel both laid back and yet like you are on an adventure. It sets an atmosphere that goes along nicely with the mindset of being students discovering the world around them. Sadly this game uses what music it has so much that it gets to the point of just irritating after a while. There are very few breaks between songs. Either you will be listening to the same song or it will immediately jump to the next song depending on where you are going. This really takes what starts off as fun tunes and makes them angrily tedious, especially over the length of this game.

The voice acting is oddly enough a mixed bag. Most of the performances are really good and work well with the dialogue they are given. Then there are those that feel as though they took the first take and said that was fine. It can feel kind of off-putting when you hear one of those lines.

The difficulty is for the most part moderate. The biggest issue with the difficulty is that there is a balancing issue with the enemies. Certain enemies in an area will be tougher than others. This is somewhat normal except that certain types of enemies will make your game grind to a halt as they beat you for no reason. It seems to stay consistent so I learned to basically avoid the ones that I had the most trouble with.

One of my bigger issues was with the boss battles. The ones I encountered at the time of writing this review were not very creative. It was less about strategy and weaknesses and more about grinding down their life meters. I never really hit a point where I was worried I was going to lose a boss fight. It’s lather, rinse, and repeat till they fall over, which is sad because their character designs were really nice. In the end, the boss battles were just not satisfying.

When I was thinking back at whether I encountered any glitches or not, all I could think about was one curiosity. This was not a glitch mind you. Instead, it was a rather peculiar programming decision. When you first turn on the game you get an option screen to either work with the game’s options or go straight to the game. If you click the options menu, it goes to the options. However, if you click the play game option it still takes you to the options menu first. From there you have to choose to proceed to the game. This is nothing that detracts from the game in the least, but it is really odd that this happens.

I want to take a moment to talk about the game’s cut scenes and characters. The cut scenes use the in-game engine rather than making short CG films. This really kept the game’s focus on the characters and what was happening to them. This game (despite its limitations) looks beautiful. I love the designs of the characters and the world itself. There wasn’t a thing about the visual design I didn’t like. It is one of those moments where everything connects and works perfectly together. I’d imagine it probably looked just as good with the limitations of the PSVita and the PlayStation 3.

In the end, The Legend of Heroes: Trials of Cold Steel was a fun game that really stood out for me from many recent RPG’s I’ve played. With a solid story and battle system, I never wanted to stop playing. Though a word of caution must be said. This is a slower RPG than most are probably used to. The story doesn’t really pick up until the last chapter or two. If you are ok with that then I say give it a go.

By Zoe Howard On 27 Jul, 2017 At 07:43 PM | Categorized As Featured, NINTENDO, Reviews, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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You would think with the backlash from games like Titanfall 1 and Star Wars Battlefront developers would have learned that releasing games that are only a glorified versus modes is a bad idea, especially when your game visually mirrors (almost to a point of infringement) the already popular hit Minecraft. Yet Cube Pixel Action Hero offers enough of a novel concept of the classic FPS game that it was worth the look.

Let’s start with the basics. Typically that would be to explain the story, but this game doesn’t have one. Even though it says it has a single player mode, it is simply practicing against A.I. enemies. Why this actually exists when the game only allows you up to two players seems kind of odd.

The main mode is called creative which allows you to build your own levels to fight in. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Being allowed to build and save your own levels to fight in is actually a fun idea for a first person shooter. If you have played Minecraft then you already know how this mode works. Remove the blocks you don’t want and place the blocks you do. You won’t be lost trying to use the game interface and items either. The in-game menus work and look a lot like those in Minecraft. This will allow for the quick building of levels since there isn’t that much you actually have to learn.

The biggest downfall of the games create mode is the size limitation. The space you are given to build in is extremely small. Blood Gulch from Halo Is like a whole continent compared to the space you have to work with here. Once you see the maps already available in the game you will realize this is how they all are. The whole game is close quarters combat, which makes sense when you realize this game, based on FPS multiplayer, is local play only. There won’t be any massive online skirmishes here. In fact, there is only two players maximum in the game so getting friends together to play is barely an option unless you like playing one-on-one tournaments.

In practice mode, you fight A.I. opponents who have guns. You get five maps to chose from and five lives to survive. This is where the game’s core idea comes into play. With the game being a first person shooter that utilizes Minecraft mechanics, you can break through walls and the ground and create your own traps and paths to the enemies. This means the world is yours to work with and use to try to gain an advantage. This mechanic actually works really well. I was in the game quickly breaking walls to escape enemies as soon as it began. The only problem is the poor programming of the computer opponents. There is no diversity in what the A.I. opponents do. They just move towards you from across the map and make no attempt (outside of Halo jumping) to avoid the bullets. Knowing exactly where you are at all times, they can move on you quickly. This takes a lot of the creative elements out of the game and makes it strictly a kill them all as they approach scenario.

Zombie mode is just your average wave challenge in an incredibly small area (about the size of a basketball court). You get five maps that are slightly smaller than those in practice mode. There is no variety in how this is done. The item drops are frequent and keep you well stocked. The zombies either just run at you or Halo jump to avoid the bullets. Run backward in a circle and time your shots and you will generally plow through them. It took me no real effort to get to wave 18. The biggest challenge this mode offers are the runners who move as fast as you do. The first wave boss at level 10 never got close to me.

There are pre-made characters that are all caricatures of action heroes. Much in the style of BroForce, the characters are pretty obvious. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Lee and many other likenesses are represented here. Sadly there is only one pre built female character out of the 18 prebuilt templates and if she is supposed to be someone famous then I don’t know her. Seriously, how hard would it be to make an Ellen Ripley from Aliens or Sarah Connor from Terminator 2? The character likenesses are as far as the references go. They all share the same bland male voice that really does nothing. This includes the lone female character.

The game does have a character designer mode that lets you customize a character to use in the game. This is a pretty good feature considering you can use the stylus on the Game Pad’s screen to do some creative work. This would be a pretty nice feature if they actually included a few other options. As with the pre-made characters, they all share the same voice. Considering that is the main source of reaction from the character (pre-made or custom) it makes the experience bland and makes the characters forgettable.

There are two big gripes with this game. The first is the first thing you will experience in the game. The title screen and the options all require the touch pad to use. There is no ability to use the arrow keys and buttons to move through the menus. I don’t know if this is maybe because it was planned as a mobile game or what, but it makes the game really annoying every time I had to go back to the menus.  What makes this even funnier is that the touch screen isn’t used at all in the actual game. While this is a good thing, it just makes me ask why they have touch screen function at all, especially considering how hard they are to use. You have to be precise with how you touch the buttons or it won’t register.

The second issue in the game is the gun mechanics. The target reticule is pretty big for most of the guns. The zombies will run fast and Halo Jump (seriously, why is this an acceptable mechanic?) when you target them. You have to be precise with your shots. This is made more difficult with the wide bullet spread of many of the guns. While this isn’t impossible to get used to, it does point out that the targeting could be tightened a bit.

In the end, this game was just not that fun. The little bit of creativity they added to the FPS genre doesn’t hold the game above its shortcomings. This honestly feels like it should be called My First Multiplayer Shooter. It really gives the impression that it was made for kids. Yet there is some creativity and challenge that they tried to put in place for the adults.

The game is six dollars and some change. If you want a game that is like Minecraft with guns, you could have some fun with this. I think my nephew might enjoy it, but this is a really hard game to recommend. I want to end with a positive thought. Their seed of inspiration. The idea of using the Minecraft mechanics in a FPS is still a solid idea. While it missed the mark in this one it could be nurtured into something far more creative and a lot more fun. I hope the company doesn’t give up on the idea and finds a way to make it more compelling.

Side note to the entire industry (both big and small developers). Single player story modes are fun and get people used to your mechanics and world before going into the multiplayer. Games without them tend to do badly. It makes the characters bland and lifeless.

By Zoe Howard On 16 Jul, 2017 At 06:20 PM | Categorized As Featured, PlayStation, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarIt can be challenging reviewing a game in a series you have not yet had the pleasure of playing. You may ask yourself, “will this game make any sense without playing any of the previous titles?” Knowing that this game was made in a different style compared to the previous ones, I figured it would be okay to miss the first games in the series. Ultra Despair Girls may deviate from its predecessors, but I think it offers a new audience a chance to enjoy a well-told story.

The story follows Komaru Naegi, a young girl who was kidnapped a year and a half before the beginning of the game. She is finally being released thanks to a battle between crazed robots called Monokuma and a team of fighters called the Future Foundation. One of the members gives her a hacking gun to protect herself from the crazed robot bears and tells her to escape. Upon her escape, she meets up with different people on her quest to flee Towa City and find her family.

To say that this is a very slim summary of the story is an understatement. There are twists and turns everywhere and there are more exposition and back story around every corner. If I was to try and write down the full plot, it would take up the entire review. Therefore, I am sticking to the main plot that serves as not only the central focus but where the main characters draw the most character development from. A good portion of this development happens between Komaru and a member of Future Foundation she meets by the name of Toko. Komaru and Toko travel through the city trying to escape while trying to understand what’s happening around them.

Through Komaru and Toko’s plotline, the player has an opportunity to learn what happens in previous games. It is really a great plot device that catches up those of us who missed the earlier entries. I never felt I was lost when a character showed up or back story was discussed. You are always given enough information to understand what is going on, at least as much as is needed for that point in the story. I can only recall one time that something happened that left me going “what?” and that was with a character that shows up in the last few shots of the game. It won’t take you long to realize that they had more to do with the old games, but it is clear the developers will be giving us more story in the games to come.

The controls for the game are surprisingly well thought out. Considering this game started out on PS Vita, I can see how they probably worked well there, too. This is probably one of the easiest to control games I have played in a while. If you are at all familiar with cover based third-person shooters then this game will probably be an easy pickup. The only difference is you don’t have to take cover during a fight. Sadly, there is one glaring issue with the controls and that is the right sticks camera controls. They are incredibly slow. To make matters worse, there is no option to tweak the settings and increase the speed. What you see is what you get. This is made infinitely worse when you must use the laser sight to target enemies. You can pick up power-ups that will increase your laser sight speed, but I never saw any improvement in performance.

There is a way around this with a quick lock power-up you can pick up, but it’s completely random as to which enemy it targets. This can be somewhat useful on some of the bosses, but there are some enemies with many points you must hit. I left the auto lock off during my play through and focused on giving myself time to aim properly. Persistence pays off on this one. I completed the game using the camera the way it is.

It’s hard to really comment on graphics that were designed for the PS Vita, so I will make this section quick. Ultra Despair Girls is a port, so it will not be as good of quality as a game made for the PlayStation 4. But the aesthetic of the game itself more than makes up for the low resolution. The switching between CG cut scenes to a graphic novel, still, image-cut scenes are used beautifully to express different things within the game. There are so many interesting and fun style choices that really make the game pleasant to see.

The sound design is good for this game and matches the style very well. It is somewhat your typical anime style fanfare but when something isn’t broke, you don’t need to fix it. The music is probably the weakest part of the game. You will hear the same songs so many times during the game you will be sick of them by the end. Some of the voices can be quite repetitive as well. If this game was shorter, then I could see it is serviceable, but the game was quite long and I admit I was begging for it to be over so I didn’t have to hear them say, “Oh look another arcade machine.”

Overall, this game is glitch free. The frame rate was fantastic and never slowed down for a second. Which was even more puzzling to know how well it ran (considering that it had issues that have been pretty much erased from modern games). This issue was at its worst on the PlayStation 2 and has since then been pretty much resolved during the last two generations. There are a lot of wall corners you can get caught on without being close to them. As annoying as this can be, you will learn how to maneuver around them and progress with very little hang up. It just takes some time to get used to it.

One of the more nagging issues in this game is probably also the smallest. One simple option would fix this; there is A LOT of dialogue which is written out on the screen. The in-game cut scenes do not progress unless you press a button to continue after a character finishes talking. You will be pressing this button a lot. This game really needs an option to allow the scenes to continuously play with an option of stopping it as you wish.

I’ve been saving a certain topic related to this game for the very end, and that is the rather adult nature of much of its story. This game is in no way marketed to children, but I feel it is worth saying that this game has a lot of dark topics. What’s darker than the villains being murderous children seeking to spill the blood of the adults? There are jokes about the main character’s infatuation with her older brother. One of the villains in the game experiences traumatic memories and has flashbacks about what can only be interpreted as a form of sexual assault. Toko has odd fetish dreams about her “master” between the levels as well. None of this affects my choice in the score for the game. I just feel this is worth mentioning for anyone who might have younger kids interested in anime based games.

If I was to name one thing about this game that really got to me, it would have to be the sheer amount of information thrown at the player throughout the game. The game oozes plot and back-story. By about halfway through the game, I gave up on reading or listening to what the characters had to say about the bonus pick up items. I would just get the items and move on. As it is, the end of the game reminds me of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. They could have ended it at any of about six different moments and it would have worked just fine. I cheered when the credits began rolling; there is a lot to take in about this game. This is one instance where I will say that maybe there was too much.

Ultra Despair Girls is pretty much a visual novel with levels you play to reach the next chapter. I really liked this idea. Even if it goes on far longer than it should. I can also see this concept being cleaned up and made better with later iterations. I do need to say: that you as the potential gamer will be watching and reading a lot more than playing. It’s especially story -heavy in the first and third acts of the game. The second act houses a good portion of the action; there is a decent amount of gameplay here but it could be much more.

I played this game on the default medium difficulty. Sadly, there wasn’t a lot of challenge till about the fourth chapter of the game. Even then it died down in chapter 6 (the last chapter). If you are looking for a challenge I suggest a harder difficulty level. Easy difficulty isn’t really needed considering how basic medium played out.  Most of the difficulty was in controlling the camera anyway.

Ultra Despair Girls was a fun game, all-in-all. It was also a fun introduction to a series I had not yet played before. It has me interested in what the rest of the games say about the events that happen.  I wish I could say whether previous fans of the series would like it or not; I know this one is drastically different in its game mechanics compared to 1 and 2. What I will say is this: the game has a few pitfalls, but it is also fun and will keep you interested in the characters and story. This third-person adventure game will give you your money’s worth with its creativity and well-told story.